Sharing our lives with pets can be one of the most rewarding and satisfying experiences in life.
Their unconditional love provides numerous mental health benefits. Dogs get us moving and out in the world, and relaxing with cats lowers our blood pressure. That's partly why so many people chose to add pets to their families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Being a pet parent can also be challenging, especially when financial resources are stretched thin.
What types of pet resources are out there? And where can pet parents turn when they need assistance with finding pet care, paying vet bills, or answering questions about pet parenting?
Where does a pet parent turn when times are tough?
No one should ever be forced to rehome a beloved family member because of a lack of resources. Low-income pet parents benefit from sharing their lives with pets, and we don’t need any more homeless pets on the streets or in overburdened shelters.
Thankfully, many individuals and organizations are stepping up to help people at all income levels live happy, healthy lives with their pets.
For many people, some of the best resources exist within networks of families and friends. But it's heartening to see how many organizations and individuals are devoting their lives to this important social justice issue.
One of the biggest challenges for low-income pet parents, or pet owners living on a fixed income, is the cost of pet ownership, including routine veterinary care. And that has only increased lately, with rising fuel costs, supply chain problems, and inflation.
Some veterinarians have funds available to help pet parents cover the bills, especially if you are hit with a big emergency expense. There are some organizations, for example, that will help fund the cost of radiation treatments for pets. It never hurts to ask!
But help is available for people who need financial assistance to cover the costs of veterinary care. The One Health Organization Veterinary Care Voucher Program assists low-income people with the cost of vet care at participating veterinarians. Since 2014, we’ve provided more than 1,290 households with economic relief.
Pet food assistance is available, too, through pet food pantries and organizations set up to help low-income individuals and people experiencing homelessness. These resources are typically limited, so there are efforts to have human food pantries and distribution centers offer pet food for people struggling to put food on the table for their whole family.
Low-cost spay and neuter services are also available for people who need them. Spaying or neutering pets helps reduce the population of unwanted pets and reduces euthanasia rates for healthy animals.
Grooming is more than just cosmetic. For long-haired cats, matted fur can be painful and cause skin problems. Dogs and cats need regular nail trims, and some breeds of dogs require professional (or at least expert) grooming services. A few groomers will help low-income folks for free, and there are also dog self-wash places and opportunities to save money on this expense.
Some pets, especially dogs, benefit from socialization classes and behavioral training. There are animal behaviorists and trainers who can handle dogs who are fearful because of the trauma or abuse they experienced in their previous lives (or they weren’t socialized well during their formative years).
Pet insurance is becoming more popular these days because it helps people plan for emergencies and large expenses. It doesn’t work like human health insurance plans. Ask your veterinarian which pet insurance they accept.
Spaying and neutering pets are important to reduce the population of unwanted and homeless pets. It can also reduce or eliminate health problems like an infected uterus (also called pyometra), mammary cancer (think breast cancer), and testicular cancer.
Many shelters and rescue organizations include the cost of spaying and neutering in adoption prices.
Otherwise, low-cost spay and neuter services are available to help cover or defray the cost of these important surgeries for you.
Many people rely on friends and family to care for their animals when they travel. But if they don’t have that network, local, regional, and national organizations are available to help care for pets. A number of lodging and boarding options are out there too.
Animal shelters are an important part of the pet care infrastructure. They take in strays, help find homes for animals that need them, and just look out for the welfare of animals.
A network of rescue organizations and foster parents is also a critical part of finding forever homes for animals that have been abandoned or surrendered. Did you know that there are temporary foster care homes for pets when their parents are deployed in the military or in the hospital?
Caring for a pet means preparing for every stage of life, including their inevitable death. Euthanasia is a humane option for pets when no other treatments can reduce their pain or distress. These days, there are in-home euthanasia services where you and your family can help your pet achieve a stress-free departure in your own yard or living room. In-home euthanasia services are much more expensive than taking your pet to the veterinary clinic.
It can be so difficult to say goodbye to these furry friends. That’s why people turn to pet loss support services to help process the grief that comes with losing a cherished pet.
No matter what type of support you are looking for, there is an organization ready to help. But sometimes it can be difficult to navigate all the choices.
When you need pet resources, you can always turn to your family, friends, case workers, service coordinators, or librarians. And if you’re lucky, a veterinary social worker might be available to provide the special support that’s needed when you have a pet.
The One Health Organization website compiles a comprehensive list of resources covering many of the most common needs. Because we are based in northeast Ohio, the resources listed on the website tend to be focused on our region. However, if you live outside of the area, these folks can often connect you to similar organizations.
If you live outside our service area, you can always search for goods and services that include using the words "near me." If you're searching on a desktop or laptop, the first page of options that pop up might be advertising for organizations outside your service area, so be sure that you look for their service area and scroll farther down to find other options.
As always, if you need help, give us a call, and we’ll try to connect you with what you need.